Australian Beetle sculpture needs taxonomic name

November 18, 2010
Ed Note: WTB? has maintained a confidentiality agreement regarding this sculpture, but we are now pleased to post the images and the name suggestion request.

Hi Daniel,
You may recall the conversation that we had below.
I have finally finished the sculpture and, since the show opens on Tuesday, I am free to share images with you.
I would be delighted if you were to suggest a proper name (see original request below).
Here is a link to a splash page for the piece.
I have attached some images at the bottom of the page.
Warm regards
Dean Colls

Alexander the Great Sculpture by Dean Collis

Help needed in naming new species
January 20, 2010
Dear What’s That Bug,
Firstly I would like to thank you for your most excellent site.
Your humour and obvious love of our invertebrate cousins make your site one of my favourites.
I too am a great lover of invertebrates and have never understood the “Eeew a bug!” mentality.
I am a professional sculptor and amateur coleopterist based in Melbourne Australia and I’m working on a new piece for a major exhibition that I would like some assistance with.
Yes, I have hooked you in with a false promise in the subject line, I am really asking for help in naming a sculpture.
My sculpture is a 7.4 meter long beetle, closely related to the Australian Christmas beetle but not intended to be an existing species, more a newly discovered specimen that (apart from it’s enormous size) could easily be placed among it’s close relatives.
My working title for the sculpture is ‘Alexander the Great’ and references the song ‘Alexander Beetle’.
What I am hoping that you will do for me is to help me come up with a pseudo-scientific name that fits logically within the taxonomic lexicon and is also suitable for the art world and general public.
Here is a brief version of my concept for the sculpture –
“Human beings, as a group, have a particularly self centred view of the world. Whilst it cannot be denied that we cast a long shadow, there are other inhabitants that are far more important to the day to day running of the biosphere than Humanity.
It has been suggested that if we were to disappear tomorrow, life on Earth would continue with barely a shrug, but if the insects were to disappear, most terrestrial species would be extinct within a few of years.
In terms of population size and biomass we are dwarfed by other inhabitants; one in five terrestrial species is a beetle, they make up a greater portion of biomass than we do and yet, as adults we rarely stoop to notice our diminutive neighbours.
My sculpture “Alexander the Great” stands as an Avatar for this unnoticed but essential world and as a champion for that sense of wonder and exploration that many of us leave behind as children.
The piece will be 7.2m long, 2 m high and 5.3m wide, with its imposing scale I am jolting the viewer into a new experience, shifting the centre of the universe away from the human perspective and reclaiming the significance of the unseen world around us.
I have chosen the medium of rusted Corten steel to transcend our idea of beetles as “natures jewels”, to strip away the gloss and show the beauty of the form that lies beneath. It is a medium that sits well in the Australian landscape and adds a sense of age and gravitas to the piece.
“Alexander the Great” is to be the first work in a series exploring the difference between our self perceived importance to the biosphere and the reality; and how this relates to our understanding of the true impact and significance of other species.
I am excited by the collaborations that I have formed with scientists and researchers that have been an important part of the preparation for this body of work.
I have always been fascinated by the places where Art and Science meet: the intellectual and aesthetic beauty of field notes and illustrations from the age of discovery by such men as Banks and Darwin, the dance of engineering, aesthetics and psychology that is architecture, the majestic beauty of modern astronomical photography and much more besides. This pairing of Science’s power of discovery and Art’s ability to enlighten and transcend is our greatest means for understanding the world around us and our place within it.”
I am not prepared to have my work released before the show opens and would be grateful if you could keep any details of this project out of the public eye.
I will be happy to share images with you but first need you to agree that you will keep them confidential (tiresome, I know but necessary).
I will, however, be delighted if you were interested in posting the finished work at the appropriate time. Not fishing, just offering.
Please let me know if you are prepared to keep this project confidential and I will be happy to send you images of the design, maquette and work to date.
I understand that you are very busy and would be grateful for whatever you are prepared to offer.
Warm Regards
Dean Colls

The making of Alexander the Great

Hi Dean,
We remember your request and we are very happy you finished the piece and that we are finally able to post your letter and request.  We will make this a feature and hopefully you will get some suggestions from our readership, many of whom are experts in beetles.  We agree that Alexander the Great looks to be related to the Christmas Beetles.

Alexander the Great's eye and antenna

mardikavana requested a dorsal view, and this is the only dorsal view Dean sent, of the eye and antenna.

Hi Daniel,
I have not managed to get a decent dorsal view of Alexander the Great but I do have one of the maquette.
This is the cardboard model that I produced first to refine my patterns before cutting the full scale sculpture out in steel.
I have painted the maquette to resemble rusted steel.
Hope that this helps.
The full sized work is made of a number of different pieces that needed to be bolted together from the inside.
The scutellum acts as the exit hatch.

Maquette of Alexander the Great

Hi Daniel et al
The official opening of the exhibition was yesterday and Alexander was very well received.
I have an artist’s talk to give tomorrow at the gallery and I am very pleased that I can now answer the question “what kind of bug is that?”.
Thank you all for your assistance, Plusiotis australiensis is a lovely name.
Warm Regards
Dean Colls

4 thoughts on “Australian Beetle sculpture needs taxonomic name”

  1. It is very easy to give a name to it now because i can see the dorsal view. When I watched the picture the first time only one taxon came to my mind- subfamily rutelinae. So I would name this little beetle Australian Jewel Scarab, Plusiotis australiensis.(Christmas beetles should be in the same subfamily). Also let say that Plusiotis australiensis is endemic and very rare species:)


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